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January 8, 2018
Thirty years ago, a program was started to help reduce injury and loss of life in teens caused by preventable injuries. Today, that program continues to have a resounding impact on thousands of teens across the region.
Impact is an LHSC interactive injury prevention program that educates teens about the social, economic, and health outcomes of high-risk behaviours (impactprogram.ca) while equipping them with tools to make informed decisions. Ten years ago the program expanded to include in-class presentations that now encompass every high school in London within the public and Catholic boards. Providing about 70 classroom presentations each school year, the team reaches nearly 3,500 students in London, most of whom are in Grade 11.
“Generally, our focus during these presentations is around alcohol misuse, however students are able to choose what issues they would like us to focus on,” says Brandon Batey, an Injury Prevention Specialist with LHSC’s Trauma Program.
“When there are 60 students or less, we have the opportunity to use ‘clickers’ so students can essentially choose their own adventure. We ask them to tell us about the greatest issues they feel faced with and then we can tailor our presentation to those issues,” says Batey.
“We continue seeing alcohol as the number one issue students report, but we’re also prepared to talk about marijuana and other drug use, distracted driving, and risk taking in general,” says Jennifer Lindsay, an Injury Project Associate who delivers presentations alongside her injury prevention colleagues.
Overall, the goal of every presentation is to talk about what the team calls “The Stupid Line,” helping students differentiate between safe and unsafe decisions, healthy versus unhealthy risks. Whenever possible, the team tries to include an impact speaker at its presentations. This is often someone who has survived a traumatic injury, and can speak first-hand to the consequences of the behaviours the program addresses.
“The decisions that students are faced with vary so much, so the idea is to give them the tools and strategies they need so that no matter what they are faced with, they can consider broadly and understand the consequences,” says Alison Armstrong, coordinator of LHSC’s Trauma Program.
At a recent presentation to London South Collegiate Institute, the Impact team saw some great engagement from students, particularly on social media following their presentation.
“Social media is not a focus or an outcome goal from our presentations, but we certainly take advantage of it because it helps to create some buzz and awareness,” says Batey. By promoting #knowyourline (a hashtag developed in reference to The Stupid Line), as well as other hashtags devoted to promoting distracted-free driving (i.e. #phonesdown) the team saw some positive social media pickup from South students following their presentation.
When time permits at their high school presentations, the injury prevention team is available to engage the student body as a whole by setting up activities and displays in high traffic areas of the school. Some of the activities include the distracted driving simulator, or encouraging students to take the Distracted Driving Pledge. Signed pledge sheets are then posted in a high-traffic area of the school.
The Impact team has recently started looking at how they can expand their reach to better reflect LHSC’s large geographical catchment area. Last May, the team partnered with the Ontario Provincial Police to deliver presentations to three schools in Tecumseh, Ontario.
Also in May, the team presented in Lambton at St. Patrick’s Catholic High School to more than 1,300 students. Involving more than 20 community partners, this event proved very successful. Tania Haidar, an Injury Project Associate, will be presenting on the outcomes of this regional presentation approach to the Trauma Association of Canada conference in Toronto on Feb. 22-23. Thanks to the dedication of the team to expand the reach of Impact, last year the program reached close to 9,500 students from across southwestern Ontario.
Looking at the next 30 years, the team is exploring a “train the trainer” model so they can partner with other organizations to deliver these high school presentations across the entire LHIN.
“With just two of us at LHSC as lead presenters, we have a limited capacity,” says Batey. The team is looking at ways to formalize this training model and continue to search out champions who can help to grow the program’s outreach.
The Impact team presents to students at London South Collegiate Institute. From left: Tania Haidar, Injury Project Associate; Brandon Batey, Injury Prevention Specialist; and Jennifer Lindsay, Injury Project Associate.